Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation and other sportsmen’s groups today praised Senate passage of a historic public lands bill that gives permanent protection to the Hermosa Creek watershed, a wild backcountry area just north of Durango prized for its outstanding fish and wildlife habitat and diverse recreation uses. The bill, which was passed last week in the House, now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 is a locally crafted, pragmatic land-protection bill that enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Colorado. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton, will protect the Hermosa Creek watershed through designation of a 70,000-acre Special Management Area and a 37,000-acre wilderness area in the San Juan National Forest. The Act protects prime native trout habitat in Hermosa Creek as well as an array of recreational opportunities in and around the areas designated for protection. At the heart of the Hermosa watershed is the 18-mile Hermosa Creek Trail, a popular and heavily used recreation corridor that will remain open to existing uses, from anglers and hikers to motorized and mechanized uses such as ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes.
“The Hermosa Creek watershed is a treasure for our local community as well as visiting sportsmen, offering incredible recreational opportunities just minutes from Durango,” said Ty Churchwell, Trout Unlimited’s backcountry coordinator for Colorado. “In recent years, we’ve worked hard to find a pragmatic compromise that satisfies a range of users, from anglers to bikers to grazing interests, while preserving pristine backcountry and Hermosa Creek’s renowned native trout fishery. This is a historic win that will forever protect a very special backcountry paradise.”
“The Hermosa Creek watershed offers world-class opportunities for hunting far away from the pressure of roads, and it’s reassuring to know that these opportunities will be preserved for generations to come,” said Matt Kenna with Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
“Hermosa Creek and the wild backcountry lands that flank its banks are special places where memories are born and cherished,” said John Gale, national sportsmen’s outreach campaign manager for the National Wildlife Federation. “They not only provide hunters and anglers with a unique opportunity to experience true solitude but also support robust populations of trout and big game. On behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, I tip my hat to Sen. Bennet and Rep. Tipton for their leadership and commitment to securing certainty for the future of Hermosa and the inheritance of generations to come.”
“Trout Unlimited thanks Sen. Bennet and Rep. Tipton for their hard work and persistence in advancing this bill along the long and sometimes bumpy road to final passage,” added Churchwell. “They listened to local stakeholders, helped work through differences, and finally got this incredible place protected for all time. Our kids and grandkids will thank us for this farsighted act of conservation.”
Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with 147,000 members nationwide dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Colorado Trout Unlimited has 24 chapters and more than 10,000 members in the state.
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seeks to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.